The immune system is crucial for a healthy body to function and protects us from severe infection. However, a dysfunctional immune system can cause inflammation, a condition of persistent and excessive activation of the immune system, which can result in tissue damage and organ impairment.
Chronic inflammation is a prevalent characteristic of many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
In addition, inflammation also plays an important role in the development of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
In cancer, some cells proliferate uncontrollably and evade the immune system’s surveillance. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, the immune system can either facilitate or inhibit cancer cells.
In neurodegenerative diseases, the immune system can induce inflammation thereby damaging nerve cells, impeding their function and inducing neurodegeneration. In addition, the immune system interacts with the aberrant proteins that accumulate in the brain, such as amyloid-beta and tau in Alzheimer’s, and alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease.
In our research, we are looking at cancer and neurodegeneration through the lens of immune mechanisms in the nervous system with the goal of developing new biomarkers, therapies and medical intervention programmes.